THE GREEK & ROMAN GOD(ESSE)S
A quick overveiw by Thomas Palmer
APOLLO-Also called Phoebus, the bright one. Identified with the sun.
Said to be the most powerful of the Gods. Son of Zeus and Leto. Born
on Delos, taken North and raised by the hyperboreans, he went to
Delphi and killed the dragon Python, guardian of the oracle of Themis,
but a ravager of the countryside.
Tall,handsome,outstanding inword anddeed,he wasthe god
of ever-renewed youth, archetype of virile beauty and masculine
virtue. He was also known as a seducer & extremely arrogant. Talented
in music, inventor of the lyre, he was the inspiration of poets and
soothsayers. His oracles were expressed in verse.
Hecould cure illnessand banish evil.He was adoctor who
knew the purification rites and was invoked against plague. His image
was set at dangerous places for protection (Lighting the ways) Nothing
escaped his vision (light of day).
ARIES (MARS)-Son of Hera, born without male assistance. He was a
supreme fighter, loved battle and cared little about issues, switching
sides without scruple. He delighted in massacres.
Hewas god of war,not victory, andwas thoughtless about
winning, only fighting. Was on occasion disarmed by Athena, Goddess of
restraint and forethought, to keep him from interfering in battles
that did not concern him.
He wasprolific inlove, butalso arapist.He wasrun byhis
CRONOS (SATURN)- Son of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea (Earth). Gaea, worn
out by numerous pregnancies, requested to be free of this burden, so
Cronos (Saturn) took up a sickle and cut off his father's testicles.
His wife was Rhea, and he fathered Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades,
Poseidon and Zeus. Was eventually deposed by Zeus.
Hisfestivals, theSaturnalia,were atimeof liberationand
freedom for all and got pretty wild. They were celebrated from Dec.
17th until the new year. Saturn is the archetype for "father time".
DIONYSUS- Son of Zeus and Semele. His escort was satyrs and marginally
sane gods. He did not respect laws or customs, loved disguises, wild
screaming, licentious dances and wild places. He was a drunken god
with no home, living in the wild and eating raw meat. He encouraged
excesses of all kinds.
HerahatedDionysus becauseofZeus'sinfidelity andhounded
him. She caused him to be killed by the Titans, but he was resurrected
through the efforts of Athena, Zeus, Apollo, and Rhea. She drove him
mad, but through Cybele he gained mastery of it. He drove many people
mad for various reasons.
EROS (CUPID)- A primordial god, contemporary of Chaos, who existed
before Cronos (Saturn) and Zeus. He came out of an egg that formed the
earth and sky when it broke in two. He precipitated the embraces of
Gaea (the Earth) and Uranus (the heavens), which resulted in the birth
of Oceanus, Tethys, Coeus, and Cronos (Saturn). The Earth and heavens
were so tightly embraced that none of the children could rise towards
the light until Cronos (Saturn) castrated his father.
Where he was desire, instinct and violent sex, she was grace, tender-
ness and sweet pleasure.
even inspiring Zeus to capricious sexual desires.
AsEros heis saidto bethe childof Porus(Expedience) and
Penia (Poverty). Like Penia, he was said to always be in search of
something, and like Porus, he always found a means of attaining his
FAUNUS- A Roman God, Son of Circe and Jupiter. Protector of the Roman
peoples, he lived on Palatine Hill in Rome. His oracle was given in
nightmares. Lupercalia was his festival, during which his priests ran
through the streets with leather straps and struck any women they met
with them to bestow health and fertility. The women were said to strip
themselves to be better targets. He reproduced himself in the satyrs.
HADES (PLUTO)- Son of Cronos (Saturn), brother of Zeus and Poseidon.
When the world was divided between the three brothers, the underworld
and hell fell to Hades, while Zeus took the heavens and Poseidon the
seas. He had a helmet that made him invisible. He ruled the dead, and
forbade his subjects to leave his domain. He desired Persephone, but
Zeus forbade the marriage. He then kidnapped her.
HEPHAESTUS (VULCAN)- Son of Zeus and Hera. He was lame, either because
his mother, startled by his ugliness, dropped him, or because Zeus,
angry that he took his mother's side in a dispute, threw him from
Olympos. He dwelled among mortals and became the god of black smithing
and artistic metal work. He made a golden throne that imprisoned any
who sat in it, and gave it to Hera to avenge himself for his fall from
HERMES (MERCURY)- Son of Zeus and the nymph Maia. He stole some of
Apollo's cattle shortly after his birth and concealed them, sacrific-
ing two to the Olympian Gods. This theft won him recognition as a God
himself. When Apollo discovered the theft and Hermes was tried, his
defense was so skillful and spirited that Zeus laughed and ruled that
there should be a friendly settlement between the brothers.
Hermes was Godof the spoken wordand oratory and wasthe
intermediary between the Gods and men. Also the God of commerce and
contracts, where language must be precise to convey the correct
JANUS- ROMAN- The Two faced God. he was God of beginnings and presided
over new undertakings, gateways and initiations. he was revered as the
first king of Rome and made order reign. His temple was left open in
wartime so the God could act, but was closed in peace.
THE LARES- Roman- Twin children of Mercury by the rape of Lara. They
protected the land. Were symbolized by two boys and a dog.
PAN- Half man, half goat, with horns on his brow and lust in his eyes.
Son of Hermes and a daughter of the Dryops, he was the God of pastoral
regions and wilderness. Special friend of shepherds, he guided and
protected them from afar. Protector of all wild things and places. His
pipes had an aphrodisiac effect on those who heard them and induced
Pan wasalecherand adrunkwho constantlypursuednymphswho
would flee in terror. Caves rang with their cries when he caught them.
He was famous for his rages, where he attacked anyone who got in his
way. His irrational behavior led people to flee him in "panic." He
was dangerous when he took possession of a being. The possessed, or
panoleptic, took on his bearing and would wander in the wild, laugh
madly, or throw themselves on others for sex without respect to
gender, or have epileptic fits.
POSEIDON (NEPTUNE)- Son of Cronos (Saturn) and Rhea, he is represented
wielding a trident and being pulled by monsters in a chariot. After
Zeus's victory over Cronos (Saturn), the young gods, who preferred
life on earth, divided the various domains of earth. Poseidon chose
the seas. He represented the hidden forces of germination and death.
Together with his wife Amphitrite, he had powerful ties with Gaea, the
Earth, mother of the Titans. As subterranean Gods, they shook the
world from inside.
Poseidoncausedearthquakes whenhemade lovetohis wife.
The mystery isle of Atlanta belonged to Poseidon. Poseidon could
provoke storms, set fire to rocks on shore and create springs of
water. He had many children, most wicked and violent, like the Cyclops
of the Oddessy.
PRIAPUS- A small god with a penis of immense size. Son of Zeus and
Aphrodite, he was deformed by Hera in revenge. Aphrodite abandoned him
in fear that she would be ridiculed for her ugly child. He began as a
symbol of fertility, but of no significance. Although he was over-
sized, he was impotent. He seemed to fail at everything he tried. He
was compared to an ass and ridiculed. He lent his name to the disease
priapism, an incurable illness where the penis remains painfully erect
but incapable of ejaculation. Ended up as an obscure gnome.
QUIRINUS- A Roman warrior god originally, he became a god who watched
over the well being of the community, opposite to his former nature.
Called an apparition of Romulus the founder of Rome.
ZEUS (JUPITER)- Son of Cronos (Saturn) and Rhea. He defeated Cronos
(Saturn) in a ten year battle and then divided the realms with his
brothers by lot, getting the heavens for his own. He was ruler and
judge, the arbiter of disputes among Gods and men. His decisions were
just and well balanced, showing no favoritism. He had several wives
and many lover's, earning the title "all father" or "father god". His
infidelity caused much strife on Olympos and in the world through he
raging of his wife, Hera.
APHRODITE (VENUS)- Daughter of Zeus and Dione according to Homer. 'The
Woman Born Of The Waves' according to Hesiod, born of the foam impreg-
nated by the sexual organs of Uranus, which Cronos (Saturn) had
severed and thrown into the sea. Plato identifies these as two
separate Aphrodites. One Urania, the daughter of Uranus was goddess of
pure love. The other, called Pandemos, (Root of pandemonium?) was the
Goddess of 'common' love. She married Hephaestus, but was unfaithful
Arieswascaughtandhumiliated. Aphroditefledinshame to
Cyprus, and there took Thrace as lover, resulting in the birth of Eros
(Love), Anteros (Love in return), Deimos and Phobos (Terror and Fear).
She also was a lover of Adonis, a human shepherd named Anchises who
fathered Aneas, of Hermes and of Dionysus who fathered Priapus. She
was known for jealousy. She made Eos (Dawn) fall in love with Orion in
spite for her seduction of Aries. She punished all who did not succumb
to her. A beauty competition between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite was
proposed by Eris (Discord) with the prize being a golden apple. It was
judged by the human Paris. All the Goddesses offered him bribes to
AphroditeofferedHelen, mostbeautifulofall Humans.She
won and thus caused the Trojan War. Eros was the primordial god of in-
stinct. When Aphrodite appeared he adapted himself and joined forces
with her. At this time the sexes became distinct. Aphrodite's kingdom
was the place of desire. Young girls were said to pass from the place
of Artemis (chastity and games) to the place of Aphrodite, where they
become women. Considered by some to be an affliction or madness that
women must bear. She represents female lust and passion, and demonstr-
ates its potential for destructive effect. Young girls gave their vir-
ginity to the Goddess by living in her temples and offering themselves
to passing strangers.
ARTEMIS (DIANA)-Daughter of Zeus and Leto. The huntress, she is seen
as the forever young goddess. She is proud of her shapeliness and
keeps her virginity to protect it. She was a warrior, joining Apollo
to kill Python and other exploits. Anyone who offended her or tried to
win her virginity paid dearly. They were killed, transformed, or
mutilated. She defended modesty and punished illicit love and exces-
ses. She avenged rape. She also took out her anger on those virgins
who gave in to love. She did not mind marriage, but when a virgin
married she was to give up all the things of childhood, toys and
dolls, locks of hair, etc., leaving them on her altar.
ATHENA (MINERVA)- Daughter of Zeus and Metis. Metis was swallowed by
Zeus, and when it was time for Diana's birth, he had Hephaestus crack
open his skull and she came forth in full armor shouting a war cry.
Also a virgin Goddess, she lived among men without fear due to her
warrior's skills. She was the protectress of Odysseus and other men.
She was a warrior who used strategy, ambush, cunning, and magic rather
than brute force. Her shield bore the head of a gorgon and she paraly-
zed her adversaries and made her companions invincible. She was
against excess, both in war and every day life. She taught men to
control their savagery and to tame nature. Was the initiator of all
skills. Taught Pandora to weave, trained horses and invented the
chariot. She was the patroness of blacksmiths and carpenters. She
built the first ship and the boat of the Argonauts.
CYBELE- Was born as Agditis, a hermaphrodite monster, from a stone
fertilized by Zeus. The Gods decided to mutilate him(?) and made the
Goddess Cybele from him. Her love for Attis, a human shepherd, drove
him insane and he castrated himself for her. Her priests were eunuchs
dressed as women. It is from the temple of Cybele that the reference
in the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess to "At mine Altars, the youths of
Laced.mon in Sparta made due sacrifice.", comes.
DEMETER (CERES)- Daughter of Cronos (Saturn) and Rhea, the Goddess of
corn and grain. Demeter bore Persephone. She renounced her duties as
goddess and began a fast and went into exile from Olympos when her
daughter was abducted into the underworld until her daughter should be
returned to her. She caused the spread of the knowledge of the cul-
tivation of corn.
During herexilethe earthbecamebarren untilZeusdemanded
that Hades return Persephone. She had eaten from a pomegranate,
however, and was forever bound to the underworld. As a compromise, she
was allowed to rise up into the world with the first growth of spring
and return to the underworld at seed sowing in fall. And so the Earth
is barren in the winter, while Demeter mourns, and becomes fruitful
again when Persephone is released. Demeter made herself known to the
children of Eleusis, who raised her a temple and instituted the
Eleusinian mysteries. In Sept.-Oct., the candidates for initiation
purified themselves in the sea, then processed down the sacred path
from Athens to Eleusis. The rites remain secret, but involve a search
for a mill for grinding corn, and a spiritual experience. During the
rites, men women and slaves were all treated as equal.
ERINYES, THE- Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaara. They were born from
drops of blood that fell from Uranus's severed Penis, and did not
recognize the authority of the gods of Olympos. They hounded and
tortured their victims, driving them mad. Also called the Eumenides,
The Good Ones, to divert their wrath. Assimilated by the Romans as the
Furies. They were implacable and demanded punishment for every murder.
To them murder was a stain. The murderer had to be banished and driven
mad before purification could occur. They were blind and carried out
their punishments indefinitely.
HARPIES- Greek genii/spirits- Daughters of Thaumes and Electra:
Nicotho or swift-footed, Ocypete or swift of flight, and Celaeno, the
dark one. Were either women with wings or birds with the heads of
women. Called the 'hounds of Zeus' and seized children and souls.
Skillful at torture, they could pester a victim into madness.
HERA (JUNO)- Daughter of Cronos (Saturn) and Rhea brought up by
Oceanus and Tethys. Married Zeus. It was claimed that each year Hera
regained hervirginity by bathing in the spring of Canathus. According
to some traditions Hephaestus, Aries, and Hebe (Youth) were conceived
by her alone without male assistance. As Zeus' legitimate wife, her
fury at his infidelities was boundless, and she took vengeance on his
lovers and any progeny of the affair without distinction. Zeus was
often reduced to hiding or disguising his children to protect them.
HESTIA/VESTA- Daughter of Cronos (Saturn) and Rhea. Goddess of the
hearth, she had the privilege of retaining her virginity forever. Her
symbol was the fire, which was never allowed to go out. The young
bride and newborn child were presented to her and she was invoked
before each meal. Her temple in Rome was served by the young vestal
MOERAE (PARCAE)- The Three Fates. Atropos, Clotho, Lachesis, daughters
of Zeus and Themis. The first spins a thread symbolizing birth. The
second unravels it, symbolizing life's processes, and the third cuts
it, symbolizing death. They too were blind and ruled destiny. They
were also symbols of a limit which could not be overstepped. Were
connected to their sisters, the furies, who punished crime.
MUSES- Nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory). Calliope ruled
epic poetry, Clio ruled history, Polyhymnia mime, Euterpe the flute,
Terpsichore dance, Erarto lyric art, Melpomene tragedy, Thalia comedy
and Urania astronomy. They delighted the Gods and inspired poets. The
Muses created what they sang about. By praising the gods, they com-
pleted their glory, by boasting of valiant warriors, they wrote their
names in history.
Theywerecelebrated bythe Pythagoreansasthe keepersof the
knowledge of harmony.
NEMESIS- Daughter and Night. Ruled over the distribution of wealth,
looked after balance, took revenge on arrogance and punished excess,
including excessive happiness, riches and power. Moderation in all
things was her creed.
NYMPHS- Daughter of Zeus and usually part of a greater god(esses)
entourage. Not immortal, though long lived. Mostly lived in caves.
Were dark powers whose beauty alone could lead to madness. Were
seducers of many of the gods. Were considered secondary deities.
THETIS- Daughter of the old man of the sea. Very beautiful. Mother of
Achilles. Saved Zeus from a plot to overthrow him and was an ally of
Hera. Saved the Argonauts as they passed between the clashing rocks.
Next: Against The Witch Hunters (R. Culain)